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Apple iPad 3: Rumors, Analysis and Predictions

What’s Inside Apple’s A6 Chip?

The SoC, or system-on-a-chip, is the brain in every tablet and smartphone currently available. Nvidia makes the Tegra, Texas Instruments has its OMAP, and Qualcomm breathes fire with the Snapdragon platform. All of these systems can be found in a number of different Android and Windows Phone devices, but Apple has its own SoC to play with. The original iPad shipped with the A4 SoC, a 1 GHz single-core CPU paired with a PowerVR SGX535 GPU. The iPad 2’s A5 pulled and Emeril and kicked things up a notch, packing a dual-core 1 GHz CPU and more powerful SGX543.

So far, the Internet is split over what route Apple will go with the A6, although everyone seems to agree upon the name. Many are counting on a quad-core CPU, clocking in at 1.0 or 1.5 GHz. The speed is up in the air, but since Tegra 3 is sitting at 2 GHz 1.3 GHz we’re using that as a barometer. On the other hand, some think the A6 will maintain a dual-core design, albeit at a higher clock speed than the A5.

A quad-core SoC would chew through HD video, as well as anything else it’s tasked with. Game performance would get a significant boost, too, which would be a boon for developers and casual gamers alike. Battery life would likely suffer, although a larger battery (see the previous page) combined with Apple’s knack for getting the most out of its device’s power sources could iron out that wrinkle.

As far as the GPU is concerned, a step up is a given at this point. It’s going to be a PowerVR component of some sort – similar to the dual-core SGX543MP2 in the iPad 2 – but the exact part number is still a mystery. Apple can go one of two ways here: 1) choose a GPU from the same family as the iPad 2’s part (this would be the “Series5XT”), but choose a component with more graphics cores – say four cores instead of two, or 2) go with a PowerVR Series6 component, the details of which just came to light today. The known Series6 parts are the G6200 (dual-core) and G6400 (quad-core), and the performance gains over the previous Series5 generation is astronomical - up 20 times more powerful. If Apple chooses either component, gaming performance and graphic-heavy transitions (like flipping a page in an eBook) will get a serious shot in the arm. It would also make the iPad 3 a very HD-friendly device, which could mean HD Netflix on-the-go, just for starters.

Lastly, Apple has never been one to be outdone for long in the mobile hardware space; Apple always seems to be on par – or several months ahead – of the competition, be it with the iPhone line or the iPad. The Asus Transformer is a force to be reckoned with, thanks to its Tegra 3 SoC, and Apple will likely want to meet or exceed the performance of this flagship Android tablet.

Final Prediction: The iPad 3 comes to market with a quad-core A6, clocked between 1.0 and 1.5 GHz. The GPU will be a PowerVR Series6 part. Combined, these will allow Apple to keep pace, or possibly even outgun, the latest and greatest Android tablets.

  • "Apple will unveil the iPad 3 early next month."

    Shouldn't this read "Apple IS EXPECTED TO unveil the iPad 3 early next month," or do you have hard evidence to back your claim? Rumor and expectations, however probable they may be, are not facts.
    Reply
  • "The iPhone 4S still has the best-looking screen in the smartphone world because of this tech (although the Galaxy Nexus is a close second)"

    So both have indistinguishable pixels but the OLED one entirely covers the sRGB gamut and has an essentially infinite contrast ratio, yet the IPS one is somehow superior? I thought I was on Tomsguide, not Engadget.
    Reply
  • whitey_rolls
    Still predicting a quad core processor? Didn't Apple already come out and say they would be putting another dual core processing in the Ipad 3?

    Reply
  • dconnors
    Thanks for commenting, guys.

    TK_Sam"Apple will unveil the iPad 3 early next month."Shouldn't this read "Apple IS EXPECTED TO unveil the iPad 3 early next month," or do you have hard evidence to back your claim? Rumor and expectations, however probable they may be, are not facts.
    I have zero reason to believe that the iPad 3 (or iPad 2S) isn't coming next month, hence the statement. But I did edit it, because as sure as I am that the next iPad is coming in March, it's still speculation.

    nexusCFX"The iPhone 4S still has the best-looking screen in the smartphone world because of this tech (although the Galaxy Nexus is a close second)"So both have indistinguishable pixels but the OLED one entirely covers the sRGB gamut and has an essentially infinite contrast ratio, yet the IPS one is somehow superior? I thought I was on Tomsguide, not Engadget.
    I have eyes on both displays virtually every day. Frankly it's a 1A/1B kind of comparison...if the iPhone 4S display is a perfect 10, the Galaxy Nexus is a 9.5 or 9.75. It's so close that I wouldn't consider it a dilemma for consumers.

    whitey_rollsStill predicting a quad core processor? Didn't Apple already come out and say they would be putting another dual core processing in the Ipad 3?
    No, Apple has yet to make any definitive statement on the iPad 3 hardware, as far as I know. It seems like popular thought is swinging back the other way - towards a higher-speed dual-core design - but I'm not so sure.

    -Devin Connors, Tom's Guide
    Reply
  • peevee
    More cores, more pixels... Boring.
    Useless too. Law of diminishing returns in full force here. Even 2 cores were too many.
    Make it cheap, unbreakable, long-lasting without recharge and easily viewable in sunlight (Mirasol?) and I will buy it. For vacations.
    Reply
  • peevee
    "The original iPad shipped with the A4 SoC, a 1 GHz single-core CPU paired with a PowerVR SGX535 GPU. The iPad 2’s A5 pulled and Emeril and kicked things up a notch, packing a dual-core 1 GHz CPU and slightly more powerful SGX543. "

    SGX543 is not "slightly" more powerful than SGX535, it is _insanely_ more powerful. Almost Playstation 3/Xbox 360 powerful.
    Reply
  • peevee
    "Final Prediction: The iPad 3 comes to market with a quad-core A6, likely clocked at 2 GHz. "

    Absolutely unlikely. At 2 GHz, power consumption (and heat dissipation) is astronomical by mobile standards, and you can only optimize consumption in a certain range on the same process (if you make it OK for 2GHz, it is not going to work well on 1GHz, and vice versa). Transformer Prime is only 1.3GHz by the way, and for a reason.
    Reply
  • peevee
    nexusCFX"The iPhone 4S still has the best-looking screen in the smartphone world because of this tech (although the Galaxy Nexus is a close second)"So both have indistinguishable pixels but the OLED one entirely covers the sRGB gamut and has an essentially infinite contrast ratio, yet the IPS one is somehow superior? I thought I was on Tomsguide, not Engadget.
    Unfortunately, as much as I like the technology, OLEDs still have very low maximum brightness compared to LCDs.
    Reply
  • dconnors
    peevee"Final Prediction: The iPad 3 comes to market with a quad-core A6, likely clocked at 2 GHz. "Absolutely unlikely. At 2 GHz, power consumption (and heat dissipation) is astronomical by mobile standards, and you can only optimize consumption in a certain range on the same process (if you make it OK for 2GHz, it is not going to work well on 1GHz, and vice versa). Transformer Prime is only 1.3GHz by the way, and for a reason.
    I corrected the prediction, and thanks for the clarification. The 2 GHz figure came from a reference design a while back, and we never followed up on the speed once the TF201 came out. Whoops!

    Also, peevee: Use the edit button...no one needs to make four posts in a row, dude.

    -Devin Connors, Tom's Guide
    Reply
  • I've been using apple since apple II, and am very disappointed in the way they are going.
    1. I'll won't buy another iphone (I've bought 3) until they make one with a bigger screen.
    2. I won't buy a ipad (never bought one) until they make one with a SMALLER 7" screen.
    3. I'm disgusted with the huge slow down that the iOS 5 brought to my iphone 4.
    and, ALL of them, iphone, ipad, STILL have the two main problems: no search back in calendar more than one rolling year! and search will not bring you to the string you searched for IN the document, just TOO the document! I have a lot of data on my iphone, including lots of LARGE documents, that I do not want to try to scroll through to find any string I need to find. apple= idiots.
    Reply